Plant Protein and Plant-Based Meat Alternatives: Consumer and Nutrition Professional Attitudes and Perceptions

Plant-based and flexitarian eating patterns are increasingly popular, and the food supply system has responded with a wide range of convenience products despite a lack of understanding regarding consumer views. The aim of this study was to explore consumer and nutrition professional (NP) perceptions and attitudes to plant protein, including plant-based meat alternatives (PBMA) within an Australian context. Using an online survey promoted via social media, 679 responses (89% completion rate), achieved an even spread across key age groups. A total of sixty percent reported following a special diet, with 25% vegan and 19% flexitarian. ‘Health’ was a key driver for diet type among the NPs (53.3%) and they were less likely to follow a special diet, while “ethical” reasons were cited by consumers (69%). Plant-based eating was considered a vegan dietary pattern and the most frequently consumed plant-based proteins were whole grains. Most (74%) had tried PBMA, but they were more frequently chosen by consumers, with burger patties then sausages and mince selected as a ‘trendy’ choice; taste was very important across both groups. Products mimicking chicken and fish were of less interest. Plant-based claims were observed by 78% but these were also of greater interest to consumers. Participants reported looking for whole ingredients and iron content and expected that both iron and vitamin B12 would be comparable to red meat. Sodium was the nutrient of greatest interest to NPs and, together, these results help inform the direction for product innovation, while also highlighting the need to assess the adequacy of the dietary pattern when promoting sustainable plant-based eating. 

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